Monday, December 16, 2013

NRS-MSA walk for productivity

Staff on "Walk for Productivity"
IITA NRS Management Staff Association (MSA) held a 5-kilometer walk tagged, “Walk for Productivity,” the first of its kind by the association, on Friday, 6 December 2013.

The walk was part of efforts to encourage good health through regular exercises. NRS-MSA President, Kayode Awobajo, said besides enhancing good health, the event also promoted unity among staff, a necessary ingredient for productivity.

DDG (CS), Akuffo-Akoto, commends IITA administrators

Station administrators with DDG Akuffo-Akoto
Kwame Akuffo-Akoto, IITA DDG (Corporate Services) held a special session with administrators during the R4D Week, and lauded their contributions to the Institute’s mission and goals.

“I am pleased with the work you are doing at the stations,” he said.

He, however, noted that there was need for improvement in view of the task ahead.

The meeting provided the administrators the opportunity to rub minds, compare notes, review the past and re-strategize for the future.

IITA co-hosts the 6th International Nitrogen Conference in Kampala, Uganda

Participants at the nitrogen conference
IITA co-hosted the successful 6th International Nitrogen Conference from 18 to 22 November 2013 in Kampala, Uganda. It brought together 168 delegates from 37 countries, including scientists, agriculturalists, environmentalists, industrialists, economists, and policy-makers, to discuss issues linked to nitrogen management. These included food security, human health, agriculture, and the water cycle.

On the last day, participants at the conference developed the Kampala Declaration on global nitrogen management. Details will be announced soon.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Prof Mateete Bekunda, the Convener of the conference, challenged the participants to come up with a Kampala Declaration that was an “Agenda for Action” in response to the conference theme: “Let us aim for Just Enough Nitrogen: Perspectives on how to get there for “too much” and “too little” regions.”

Also present during the opening ceremony was Dr Bernard Vanlauwe who relayed the goodwill message from IITA’s Director General to the participants and gave the first keynote address on Nitrogen fixation intensification and Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM).

Other speakers included Prof. Mark Sutton, the Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI). He said that the challenge of reactive nitrogen management encompassed many sectors, including agriculture, fossil fuels, waste water, and our own dietary choices.

He added, “In western countries there is a debate between conventional foods and organic foods which completely exclude nitrogen fertilizers. The general sense at the conference was that there is a need to explore and market options that get the best of both approaches.”

Another high profile personality who gave a keynote speech was the World Food Prize Laureate, Prof Pedro Sanchez, who said that enabling government policies must facilitate private sector development across the food value chain from soil to the fork.

Conference presentations highlighted the benefits of nitrogen for agriculture and the threats from too much and too little.  Delegates discussed the development of sustainable ways of managing nitrogen. It was noted that while developed countries needed to learn to manage nitrogen resources more effectively, those in sub-Saharan Africa needed to increase their input of nitrogen fertilizer to meet food security goals. However, they also needed to take care to avoid nitrogen pollution. 

The conference was the world’s first to offer Nitrogen Neutrality. Nearly two in three of the delegates signed up to the scheme to offset the nitrogen footprint of organizing the Conference by paying 50 dollars to an N Neutrality project, the Ruhiira Millennium Village.
The conference was hosted and supported by the International Nitrogen Initiative, Makerere University which provided the Secretariat, Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), and IITA. Other supporting institutions were International Fertilizer Association (IFA), International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), Africa RISING, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Global Partnership on Nutrition Management (GPNM), N2Africa, European Commission, and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Conference abstracts and sanctioned Power Point presentations are being uploaded on

Workshop on ISFM held in Ibadan

Participants at the workshop on ISFM
More than 30 researchers converged on the Conference Center of IITA Ibadan campus for a 3-day conference tagged: “Supporting soil health  consortia in West Africa: facilitating wider uptake of better adapted Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) practices with visible  positive impacts on rural livelihoods.”

The goal of the workshop is to improve agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers by promoting the uptake of appropriate ISFM technologies.

The event was declared open by Dr Ylva Hillbur, IITA DDG (Research), who  introduced participants to IITA’s ongoing research, mission, and  milestones achieved over the years as well as happenings across all  hubs.

Dr Marie Rarieya, AGRA Program Officer, Education and Training Soil Health Program (SHP) underscored the importance of soil health in the agricultural value chain, and attributed the low agric productivity in Africa to declining soil fertility.

 She noted that AGRA has taken a huge step in addressing this gap but pointed out that there has to be a consensus on goals and more concerted efforts by all stakeholders involved.

 “Research must be up scaled to meet up with the agricultural transformation in Africa and this can only be achieved through a   synergetic effort of all partners” she said.

The meeting was facilitated by Stefan Hauser (Root and Tuber Systems Agronomist) and Zoumana Bamba, IITA Head of Capacity Development.

Beneficiaries commend IITA-AGRA training course

Dr Rarieya (fifth from left), beneficiaries and staff of NISLT
Beneficiaries of the AGRA-IITA training course on good laboratory practices and laboratory information management
systems have commended the two institutions for building their capacities, saying that the training they received was helping to make them more efficient.

During a visit by AGRA-IITA team to the Nigerian Institute of Science Laboratory Technology (NISLT), Samonda, Ibadan; one of the beneficiaries, Nkem Michael-Uwaje, who is also a staff of NISLT explained how she has been able to put into effective use the knowledge she gathered from the training and how this has positively affected the quality of her work and those of her colleagues especially with the tips on how to generate internal control samples with the
aid of certified reference material.

“Before the AGRA-funded training, protocols/laboratory operations in the unit were poor, but this situation has improved,” she said while taking the team comprising Marie Rarieya, AGRA Program Officer, and Joseph Uponi, Manager, IITA Analytical Services Lab, on a tour of her laboratory.

“Also during the training, I met and networked with other professionals from different countries in Africa. Since then, our network has grown. I am now able to keep a close tab on my colleagues and compare my work with what they are doing in other African countries. This way, I have been able to monitor how well my work is going. It was really an exciting time for me,” she added.

Nkem is just one among the several persons trained this year, thanks to funds from AGRA. Also in attendance during the visit
were two other beneficiaries of the training from the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IART) Ibadan, namely Ms Tayo-Aruna  Abidemi and Mr Popoola Joseph.

Receiving the team, Dr Ighodalo F. Ijagbone, Director General, NISLT, said the Institute’s  collaboration with IITA and AGRA in training and research had been very productive, especially as laboratory practice was concerned.

As a regulator of lab practice, Dr Ijagbone said, “We will support whatever role you want us to play. One of our core functions is capacity building and we have our members across universities, institutes, and polytechnics.”

Dr Rarieya said the aim of the visit was to strengthen partnerships across the institutions.

“AGRA strongly values partnerships and networking…And for us to create impact, we need to build capacity, from farmers to laboratory technicians. In AGRA we are constantly thinking of how we can work with partners to increase productivity,” she explained.

She pledged to strengthen the partnership already established with the institute especially as NISLT will be hosting the in-country course in soil and plant analysis in January 20–24, 2014. Similar in-country training will also take place in collaboration with Kwame Nkrumah University from January 6–11, 2014 for laboratory technicians in Ghana.

The AGRA-IITA team also made a brief stop-over at the Agronomy Department of the University of Ibadan where they met with Mr Omosuli Sunday, a beneficiary of the on-site training in soil and plant analysis which took place in March 2013 at IITA, Ibadan.

Friday, December 13, 2013

N2Africa project prepares for second phase with US$25 million grant

Woman farmer tending a soybean field
Project team and partners of the N2Africa project gathered in Nairobi to share and learn from the successes of its first phase and plan for the second after receiving the good news of additional funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project started in 2009 and works with smallholder farmers in Africa to exploit the nitrogen-fixation potential of legumes to improve soil fertility and contribute to improving food security and nutrition. It has reached more than 250,000 farmers across eight countries with better legume varieties and improved farming practices — including the use of phosphorus fertilizers and rhizobia inoculants.

Many of the beneficiary farmers more than doubled their legume yields and also significantly increased the yields of successive crops as a result of improved levels of soil nitrogen.  Annual net household income rose by an estimated average of $355.

The project was led by Wageningen University together with IITA and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The first phase, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, was implemented in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe.

With the new funding from the Gates Foundation, N2Africa Phase 2 will focus on five core countries—Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda—but will maintain activities in the other countries involved in Phase 1.

In addition to enhancing production in the major legume-growing areas of each partner country, Phase 2 will strengthen partnerships with both the public and private sectors, such as seed, inoculants, and fertilizer companies, to ensure a sufficient and consistent supply of inputs to the smallholder farmers and to improve markets.

“In the second phase, we will build on the successes we achieved in Phase 1. We will work with the public and private sector to create sustainable input supply and marketing chains to ensure the best legume technologies, including the inoculums, are easily available and affordable to African smallholder farmers,” says Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA’s Director for the Central Africa Hub and natural resource management. We will drive the adoption of these technologies by linking the smallholder farmers to
local, regional, and international legume markets.” 

Phase 1 focused on identifying inoculants for soybean. The second phase extends the search to include inoculants for other legumes such as common bean, cowpea, and groundnut, among others, to enhance
legume production. It will also build the capacities of national researchers to conduct research on legume and rhizobial inoculants, based on the priorities for each participating country.

IITA Emeritus Scientist, Peter Neuenschwander, elected Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences


Peter Neuenschwander, IITA Scientist Emeritus, was recently elected a Fellow of the African Academy of Science. This award recognizes his scientific career and devotion to biological sciences over 40 years, most of this time in Africa.

 Neuenschwander joined IITA in 1983. He was recruited as Research Coordinator for the biological control project against the cassava mealybug under Dr Hans Herren and served in this position of principal scientist for 10 years. He took over from Dr Herren as Director of the Plant Health Management Division which he led for almost another 10 years. In the now famous cassava mealybug project, for which several awards including the World Food Prize were bestowed on Dr Herren, Neuenschwander led and executed research in about 25 African countries, focusing on impact assessment while training numerous African students and scientists. The team soon expanded into similar research on the mango mealybug and other pests. Later it specialized on the biological control of floating waterweeds and brought together specialists from all over Africa to write the book Biological Control in IPM Systems in Africa, a comprehensive review of biological control efforts.

In 2003, Neuenschwander retired and was nominated as the first IITA Scientist Emeritus, with an office in IITA-Bénin where he still works part time. Apart from assisting IITA colleagues in preparing manuscripts and project proposals, Neuenschwander was involved in several consultancies including one for the African Development Bank on an IPM project for the Lake Chad Basin Commission and one for UNDP on the biological control of water hyacinth in Côte d’Ivoire. He helped reestablish the Bénin section of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with another important achievement, editing and publishing a book on endangered species for the Red List of Bénin.

In his prolific scientific career, Neuenschwander has produced 113 peer-reviewed journal articles, two books, and over 30 conference papers and training manuals. He has been a founding member of BioNET INTERNATIONAL, has received a Recognition Award from the African Association of Insect Scientists, and has been elevated to Honorary Member of the International Organization for Biological Control.

For over 15 years, Neuenschwander has been living in a small village north of Cotonou. There he has rehabilitated farmland and bush to a species-rich secondary rain forest where a rare endemic monkey roams and attracts tourists. In 2014, these 14 ha of rehabilitated forest will be handed over to IITA as part of the Biodiversity Center in Bénin for the study of interactions among biodiversity, biotic stresses, and climate change, as anchored in the new IITA strategy.

CGIAR restates pledge to support Sierra Leone to develop agriculture

Sierra Leone has received a high-level commitment from CGIAR that the global network of international agricultural research will support the country’s agricultural reform program.
The pledge to support Sierra Leone came after a 3-day consultative dialog that sought to set the vision for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in promoting agriculture, fisheries, and industrial development.

Dr Marco Wopereis of AfricaRice Center, who represented Dr Frank Rijsberman, the Chief Executive Officer of the Consortium, said, “CGIAR is also ready to assist Sierra Leonean research institutes in developing 10-year research strategies and 5-year rolling implementation plans to ensure highly relevant research, while building a strong science capacity in Sierra Leone and mobilizing global knowledge in these areas.”

 CGIAR centers present at the dialog which ended in the capital Freetown on 13 November included the World Agroforestry Center, IITA, AfricaRice, and CIAT. Others to be brought on board are ILRI and WorldFish.

The plan is to assist Sierra Leone in putting into practice the development strategies for key commodities, in particular rice, cassava, forestry products, livestock, and aquaculture.

Over 200 participants, including cabinet ministers, heads of MDAs, development partners, members of parliament, private sector players, farmers’ organizations, and civil society activists, participated in the dialog.

Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General (Partnerships and Capacity Development) and Braima James, IITA Country Coordinator for Sierra Leone, represented IITA at the consultative dialog.

The mandate of the dialog, according to President Koroma in his closing address, was to set out a 5-year integrated and comprehensive program and action plan for promoting agriculture, fisheries, and industry in Sierra Leone.

He told the participants, “I am reliably informed that all participants have demonstrated great commitment to achieving this objective, and we now have a rough draft of what needs to be done. I applaud all of you for your worthy contributions.” The President paid glowing tribute to the cooperation of development partners who participated in the dialog, including World Bank, CGIAR, FARA, and CORAF. “We also applaud the contributions of our compatriots, the special advisers, my Ministers, and the staff of the MDAs. You have all done a great job,” he said.

President Koroma reiterated his Government’s commitment to meeting the objectives of the 3-day landmark conference with regard to all challenges that the workshop was trying to address, adding, “It is only in an ideal world of unlimited resources and capacities that we can do all that needs to be done.”

Professor Monty Jones, Coordinator of the conference, said the consultative dialog discussed various issues to come up with the actions and activities needed to develop the comprehensive and inclusive  5-year program. This will be implemented through collaboration among various arms of Government and Ministries: Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Fisheries and Marine Resources, Trade and Industry, Education, Science and Technology, Health and Sanitation and Youth Affairs.

Forbes Award: IITA alumni congratulate Dr Adesina

Dr Adesina holding the Forbes prize
Former and current staff of IITA have congratulated Dr Akin Adesina, the Nigerian Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, for winning the prestigious award—Forbes Africa Person of the Year.

Dr Olumuyiwa Osiname, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee of the 2014 IITA Alumni Reunion, described the award as a well-deserved victory.

“It demonstrates and supports the need for African governments to use technocrats in government for better results… I think this is the message,” Dr Osiname said.

Dr Adesina was selected for his bold reforms in Nigeria’s agriculture sector. Other nominees included Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group; Chairman of the Zenith Bank Group, Jim Ovia; Strive Masiyiwa, founder of the global telecoms group, Econet Wireless in Zimbabwe; and South African mining magnate, Patrice Motsepe.

His reforms in the agricultural sector are empowering Nigerian farmers and have ended the protracted mess in the procurement of agricultural inputs, including fertilizers.

Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s Director General and a former colleague of Dr Adesina, describes the award as a victory for smallholder farmers and agriculture in Africa.

“It shows that things are beginning to take shape in Africa,” Dr Sanginga said.

Dr Adesina is a passionate defender of smallholder farmers, and has been instrumental in unlocking opportunities for farmers and changing Africa’s narrative on agriculture away from poverty reduction to wealth creation.

He was a program leader in the IITA Resource and Crop Management Division based in Cameroon from 1992 to 1998.

 As host, Dr Adesina’s government has been very supportive of CGIAR in general and IITA in particular and its programs that are directed at alleviating poverty, enhancing health and nutrition, and improving the quality of life of the poor, including women and the youth, in Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa, and other tropical regions.

In his acceptance speech, Dr Adesina said, “I am truly honored and humbled by this prestigious award, which I dedicate to Africa’s farmers and the new cadre of young business entrepreneurs who have discovered the hidden gem for sustainable wealth creation on our continent – Agriculture.”

DG Sanginga: Africa should not be denied the opportunity to use organic and inorganic inputs

L-R: Vice-Chancellor, Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Prof A. B. Okesina;
Dr Sanginga; and Chairman, Governing Council, UNIOSUN,
Prof Gabriel Olawoyin,during the 2013 Distinguished Annual Lecture
 at the College of Agriculture, Osun State University

For Africa to witness a “Green Revolution,” the continent must sustainably intensify its agricultural production system, use organic and inorganic inputs, and also pay attention to the youth by engaging them in every sector of agriculture.

Delivering a lecture on ‘Agronomy or Brown Revolution needed in sub-Saharan Africa? Engagement of the Youth in Science-driven Agribusiness’, Director General Nteranya Sanginga said, “Africa needs to avoid opening up new lands and clearing forests to increase yields which have negative consequences on the environment and lead to a loss of biodiversity.

To sustain agricultural intensification, Africa must increase food production from existing farmland while minimizing pressure on the environment. This would address the challenges of increasing demand for food from a growing global population in a world where land, water, energy, and other inputs are in short supply, overexploited, and used unsustainably.

He advocated a radical shift from the current agricultural system that is characterized by low inputs and poor scientific knowledge.

Dr Sanginga said that if Africa had been efficiently using inputs including both organic and inorganic—herbicides and fertilizers— the continent would have benefited from the genetic gain recorded by researchers over the years through breeding programs.

“For example, if you take cassava, we have had genetic gains through breeding but instead of getting 50 t/ha we are getting 15 t/ha on most farmers’ fields. If we were applying fertilizers, we would have recorded higher yields…and this is the situation not only with cassava but with several other crops,” he explained at the 2013 Distinguished Annual Lecture organized by the College of Agriculture, Osun State University.

Dr Sanginga reiterated that no continent on earth had ever developed its agriculture without the use of inputs such as fertilizers and stressed that Africa should never be denied the opportunity to use inputs.

“If you look at the agricultural revolution in Asia or even in Europe, inputs were used to transform agriculture…I believe that Africa should take the same path,” he noted.

Tied to natural resource management, Dr Sanginga also underscored the need to engage the youth in agriculture and presented the IITA Youth Project as a model that Africa could adopt.

The IITA Youth Project engages young people from different disciplines, trains and equips them with the hands-on skills and knowledge that empowers and encourages them to go into agriculture.

Dr Sanginga said getting the youth on board was critical for the sustainability of agricultural reforms, citing current statistics that indicate that most agricultural researchers and even farmers are old.

The DG said that the Institute would continue to partner with other institutions and deliver those innovations that would improve the productivity and livelihoods of farmers. “Central to the activities of IITA is capacity building,” he added.

Dr Sanginga (centre, in blue tie), with the IITA contingent and hosts
 from the Osun State University
Prof. G.A. Olawoyin, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the university, noted the need for a “Brown Revolution” in Africa, and agreed that the engagement of the youth in agribusiness is relevant to the situation of Nigeria and Africa in general.

He described the lecture as a catalyst to solving the menace of youth unemployment and food insecurity.

Dr Sanginga was accompanied by Dr Gbassey Tarawali, Godwin Atser, and members of the IITA Youth Project.


Risk Management awareness seminar holds in Ibadan

The Risk Management awareness seminar titled ‘Building a culture of risk management in IITA’, aimed at sensitizing IITA Headquarters staff and stakeholders on the importance and priority placed on risk management, took place on Thursday, 31st October, 2013.

Organized by the Risk Management Committee (RMC) the seminar which was highly educative and inspiring was presented by the duo of Mrs. Sylvia Oyinlola and Mr.Kayode Awobajo closely supported by other committee members to showcase the effort and commitment of the RMC.   The seminar was attended by the DDG-Corporate Services, Kwame Akuffo-Akoto, to demonstrate the commitment of Management towards ensuring that risk management becomes an integral part to be considered in our daily research activities in all IITA locations.
L-R: Modupe Adeoluwa, David Oluwadare, Wole Oladokun,
 Awobajo and Oyinlola at the seminar
The seminar which was well attended by the target audience had two separate sessions.    The core of the messages from the seminar was that the task of identifying, documenting and providing mitigation plans for the risks associated with our research activities and operations is the business of all of us in the Institute.
The questions and answers which followed the interactive sessions brought out a number of salient issues.
Members of staff were encouraged to take the opportunity and make constructive contributions, bring up concerns and get involved in their respective units in order to build the risk management culture in IITA

IITA-Ibadan community celebrates Open Day 2013

DG Sanginga (in white) and staff at the 2013 Open Day
It was a day of fun and laughter but more than that, it was a day of celebration and appreciation. On Saturday, 16 November, members of IITA staff and their families (about 5000 of them) celebrated IITA Open Day, 2013.

With the theme “It is IITA’s Time”, the fun-filled day began with a tree planting activity at 8 am on the grounds across the Community Resource Center. This was followed by an Open House and exhibitions at the Conference Center where the guests had the opportunity to see, feel, and experience first-hand the institute’s research activities.

The highpoint of the day was the main event held under a gigantic tent at the grounds of the campus’ Sports Center. The festivities were declared open by Dr Kwame Akuffo-Akoto, Deputy Director General for Corporate Services. In his opening speech, the DDG said, “Today is not about making long speeches, but it is about you – the staff – and your families enjoying the day.”

“Open Day is about interacting between and among staff and families, of providing a relaxed atmosphere to unwind and get together as one big IITA family,” he added.

The highlights of the Open Day celebrations included the conferring of Long Service Awards on 43 deserving staff members in the 10, 20, and 30-year service categories. Seven staff retirees for 2013 were also given recognition; this was a new award category. All awardees were given plaques of recognition and various gifts.

A song entitled “I am IITA” adapted from a poem written by Mr Soji Akinyemi and sung by the group of Mr Bode Olaoluwa, Ms Oiwoja Odihi, and Mr Opeyemi Oyatomi was presented for adoption as the IITA anthem.

DDG Akuffo-Akoto speaks at 2013 Open Day
The occasion was spiced at different times with various cultural dances and displays by groups depicting the culture from Western, Eastern, and Northern Nigeria. Children were not left out as they enjoyed themselves at the lawn tennis courts of the Sports Center which had been transformed into a fun kids’ playground complete with jumping castles. A dance competition was also held that attracted gifts to the winners chosen by the cheering audience.
The day’s activities were ended with a raffle. The grand prize was a complete 3 day/2night package trip consisting of return air tickets to Accra, Ghana, plus hotel accommodation and allowance. The prize was won by Hakeem Opadeyi, Mechanic II with the Fabrication Unit of FMS. The winning ticket was picked by no less a personality than IITA Director General Dr. Nteranya Sanginga

Burkina scales up dissemination of IITA-improved cowpea varieties under WAAP

Burkina Faso has begun the multiplication and dissemination of IITA-improved cowpea varieties that were released/ registered in January in that country.

The two varieties, IT99K-573-2-1 (Yiisyande) and IT98K-205-8 (Niizwe), were developed by IITA, and had undergone participatory varietal selection with farmers in the central and northern region of Burkina Faso, thanks to funds from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) under the Appropriate Varieties of Early maturing Cowpea for Burkina Faso (AVEC-BF) project.

Burkina Faso is now promoting one of the varieties, IT99K-573-2-1, under the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAP)/ Programme de Productivite Agricole en Afrique de l’Ouest (PPAAO).
Dr Ishikawa talks about new cowpea varieties

The WAAPP is a World Bank project designed with the main objective of improving agricultural productivity while promoting regional integration as instruments for promoting shared growth and poverty reduction in West Africa.

The approach adopted for the WAAP project is based partly on the integration and harmonization of national agricultural policies and secondly, the establishment of close links between research, extension, producers and private operators.

Dr Haruki Ishikawa, IITA Project Coordinator AVEC-BF project said that he felt honored that  part of the project results were quickly taken up by the government and being used for the benefits of small scale farmers.

“The results  of the activities of the AVEC BF project were often reported by Burkina Faso’s television, radio stations, and newspapers. I expected prompt dissemination of our results. Thanks to Dr Issa Drabo, Cowpea Breeder with INERA, for his cooperation during the project.’’

To develop large-scale dissemination system, the second phase of the AVEC-BF project has already started.


Finding Practical Solutions for ARTS

Cassava farmers
2011 Borlaug LEAP Fellow Armand Doumtsop wants to find practical solutions to the problem of ARTS (African root and tuber scale). Tropical root and tuber crops are major staples in sub-Saharan Africa. These crops are largely produced by smallholder farmers.  Pests, such as African root and tuber scale (ARTS), are a major threat to farmer’s livelihoods. The economic consequences are serious in the Congo Basin where it can cause cassava yield losses of up to 100%.   Doumtsop research is looking at the genetics of this scale insect and the implications for the development of host plant resistance.

Armand Doumtsop, a PhD candidate at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon, used his Borlaug LEAP Fellowship to expand his professional network and develop his skills in morphological and molecular techniques.  Under the direction of Dr Benjamin Normark, he traveled to the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and, using state of the art equipment, trained in Dr Normark’s lab for six months.  The fellowship also allowed Doumtsop to survey a wide area of the Congo basin, investigate the pest problem and collect samples. His CGIAR mentor, Dr Rachid Hanna from IITA-Cameroon, supervised the fieldwork.

The research that Armand Doumtsop conducted under the Borlaug LEAP fellowship has shown that, contrary to established knowledge, this insect turns out to be a complex of species. This conclusion is based in part on evidence from Doumtsop’s painstaking morphological comparisons and anchored in the molecular genetics information he generated at the Normark lab.

Understanding ARTS diversity is only the beginning of developing evidence-based knowledge about its biology and ecology that can be used in the development of innovative management options that will limit the pest’s impact on crops.  These management options (e.g., host plant resistance and biological control) are specific to the insect and how it interacts with its host plant and antagonists.

Doumtsop plans to use his research results to develop sustainable options for pest management by providing decision-support tools, including a pest risk map and keys to develop host plant resistance in cassava and other tuber crops. This will contribute to increased yields and enhance food security and income generation for local communities.

Following completion of his PhD program, Doumtsop hopes to be involved in research projects that will contribute to food security in his native Cameroon.  He plans to transfer the knowledge he acquired during his fellowship through collaborative research, teaching of students and training of farmers’ groups.


DR Congo releases six new cassava varieties … names one of the varieties after Paul Ilona

DR Congo has released six improved cassava varieties to help improve yields and incomes of farmers, thanks to collaborative efforts between IITA and the DR Congo National Institute of Agricultural Research (INERA).

Two of the six new varieties were introduced from IITA: MUTIENE (I 92/326) and BOMENGO (M98/115). The other four were selected in the country, LITOY (2006/114), MUZURI (2006/073), KANSAKAKO (MV2007/102) and ILONA (MV2007/126).

The harvest periods of the varieties vary from 12 to 20 months after planting with root yields of 21 to 47 t/ha. In addition, the varieties are resistant to Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), with a good level of tolerance to Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD). They are high yielding, early-to-late bulking, and adapted to various environments in DR Congo.

“They are all good for fufu, lituma, chikwangue, and pondu (cooked cassava leaves),” says Dr Nzola Mahungu, Cassava Breeder and IITA Country Representative in DR Congo.

The official release ceremony took place on Monday 11, November 2013 at the Research Centre of INERA at Mvuazi (in Bas Congo province, 200 km from Kinshasa). The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (John Chrysostome Vahamwiti) and the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific research (Bonaventure Chelo) were both at the ceremony.

Dr Mahungu explained that the varieties were developed through the IITA-Cassava project funded by USAID since 2001.

The addition of six new cassava varieties brings the total number to 20 since the project’s inception.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Augustin Kadima Ngeleka who represented USAID/Kinshasa, appreciated the efforts made in the development of these new varieties and stressed the importance of cassava as the staple food and source of income of the Congolese population. He lauded IITA for putting to good use the US Government’s assistance to DR Congo, and wished that the new varieties would reach the farmers and other producers to have the desired impact on people’s livelihoods.

 “To achieve this, the new varieties must be spread in all ecological zones where they are adapted to meet farmers’ needs,” he said.
Ilona (middle) planting with DRC farmers

Explaining the naming of the new varieties by farmers, the Minister of Agriculture wanted to know the meaning of “Ilona” as it is not a Congolese word. He was told that farmers in Province Orientale always ask after Paul Ilona and have kept good memories of him. They recall the way he worked with them in participatory variety selection and how he fast-tracked cassava recovery in the province after the CMD invasion. Paul Ilona was instrumental in moving cassava breeding, looking at the  bigger picture of value chains,and helped to link farmers to processors. Thus, they named one of their best varieties  “Ilona”.

In accepting the naming, Paul Ilona wrote: “I am completely short of words and I do not know how many thank you rhymes  I should send to you and the team in DRC. However, the fact remains that you (Dr Nzola) with Dr Alfred Dixon gave me all the support I needed to make progress on cassava development in DRC. It is a collective honor for the cassava breeding team in IITA as it truly was a team work”.

Alfred Dixon, former Head of Cassava Breeding Unit at IITA, wrote: “Paul deserves it. When bullets were flying around, Paul was there to make sure the cassava improvement goal was met in DRC. I wish him many more successes in the cassava world.”

Paul Ilona, a former IITA staff, is now the Country Manager for HarvestPlus in Nigeria.

Joseph Uponi on Radio Nigeria’s “Guest Platform” program

Joseph Uponi, Manager of IITA-Ibadan’s Analytical Services Laboratory, was on Tuesday interviewed on Radio Nigeria’s “Guest Platform” radio program and talked about the role of science and technology in the development of agriculture in Nigeria. More specifically, he discussed issues pertaining to food safety, improving crop storage, weed and pest control, the needs and challenges of agriculture in Nigeria, and the importance of public and private sector partnerships in moving forward the agricultural agenda of the country. He also talked about the technologies being developed at IITA that contribute towards addressing these issues.

 “Guest Platform” is broadcast on Mondays at 6:30 PM through Radio Nigeria-Ibadan’s Premier FM 93.5 station and is also streamed online at The Communication Office will announce when this important 30-minute interview will be broadcast so that staff could tune in.

Asiedu and Dashiell seek closer ties

Dr Asiedu makes a speech

The Director for IITA Western Africa, Dr Robert Asiedu, has called on the Government of Oyo State to work more closely with IITA to improve the livelihoods of local farmers. In his remarks at the commissioning of the facilities in Ibadan, Dr Asiedu cited studies that prove that investments in agricultural research have high returns.

He commended the State Government for providing the enabling environment for IITA to carry out its research.

In the same vein, Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General, Partnerships and Capacity Development, reechoed IITA’s willingness to work with Oyo State. He said the investments in the Health and Wellness Center, Medical Unit, and the Crèche were all aimed at creating a workforce that is healthy and competent to meet the challenges limiting agriculture in the continent.

Mrs Oyinlola speaks on behalf of IITA Women's Group
The IITA Women’s Group, the initiators of the Health and Wellness Center, said they would continue to support and pioneer efforts to make IITA a better place for working, and to create a favorable impact in the community.

Ms Sylvia Oyinlola, who spoke on behalf of the group, enumerated other philanthropic activities of the Group, such as the provision of scholarships and support to orphanages, among others.
“Even the IITA School was an initiative of the Women’s Group,” she added.

Oyo Governor inaugurates new facilities at IITA

Oyo State Governor and IITA staff in group photo
The Governor of Oyo State, in Nigeria, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, on Tuesday commissioned the Clinic, Wellness Center, and Crèche at the headquarters of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan. He  underscored the importance of such facilities in promoting the health and ensuring the well-being of the institute’s staff in particular and of Nigerians in general.

Putting the commissioning in a larger perspective, Governor Ajimobi cited striking figures that highlighted the need for and benefits of such facilities for an agricultural research center and the nexus between a healthy lifestyle and productivity. He said that, for example, the incidence of diabetes is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, with related health costs estimated at US$ 67.03 billion, or US$8836 for every diabetic patient.

“I congratulate and commend the IITA Women’s Group and the Management of IITA for paying attention to the health and welfare of the  staff. The Health and Wellness Center could help us in reducing the costs associated with modern-day illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. The Crèche, on the other hand, will help ensure that the children of staff  receive good care while their parents are working.”

“These efforts are indeed heartening as these facilities will promote and enhance the staff’s physical, mental, and social quality of life,” the Governor emphasized.

Oyo Governor (in white) with Mrs Charlotte Sanginga at the Crèche
Governor Ajimobi also cited how his own administration’s work complements that of IITA. “In Oyo State, we are investing in agriculture, health, and other sectors to improve the lives of our people. This year, my administration purchased and distributed tractors to farmers to enhance their productivity. We aim to attract more of the youth to agriculture, and we are energetically pursuing this through the provision of inputs and loans with other partner financial institutions.”

“There are lots of complementarities between the work of IITA and what my administration is doing. Let us continue to work together,” the Governor said.

IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga said the presence of IITA in Oyo State makes the State strategic. He called for greater collaboration between the State and the Institute to work together to improve the fortunes of farmers, especially in the areas of job and wealth creation for the youth.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dr Sanginga praises supporter of IITA projects

IITA DG Sanginga praised Prem Warrior, former Senior Program Officer with the Gates Foundation, for his unwavering support to African smallholder farmers.
DG Sanginga introduces Prem Warrior, formerly of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

At a dinner attended by key management staff of IITA, Dr Sanginga said Mr Warrior was instrumental to the success of several projects in Africa, including N2Africa—Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa.

Dr Sanginga and Mr Warrior first met in Nairobi. At that time, Dr Sanginga was the director of CIAT-TSBF based in Nairobi, and coincidentally CIAT-TSBF projects were being transferred to Mr Warrior who had just joined the foundation.

“When I got a call that a Mr Warrior would be visiting our team in Nairobi, I was apprehensive, especially looking at his name, and I asked myself and shared with colleagues: Who is this Mr Warrior? I hope he is not coming for war?” Dr Sanginga recalled.

The DG said that his anxieties fizzled out with the arrival of Mr Warrior—a soft spoken but firm officer who is given to details.

“In my interactions with Mr Warrior, I have found him to be a friend who is committed to bringing development to Africa’s poor,” he added.

Earlier, Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnerships & Capacity Development thanked Mr Warrior for his efforts towards a food secure Africa.

In his response steeped in a deep sense of humility, Mr Warrior said he was simply discharging his duties and responsibilities.

“I saw a huge potential in IITA and other partner organizations, and supporting them was the right thing to do,” he said.

Apart from N2africa, other projects which have received support from Mr Warrior’s portfolio included, COMPRO and the aflatoxin control project that has received global recognition with the World Food Prize Field Award given to Dr Charity Mutegi of IITA-Kenya recently. These projects are impacting on the livelihoods of farmers, improving incomes and providing safer foods.

IITA holds bioinformatics training for researchers

Workshop participants and resource persons, Science Building, IITA-Tanzania.

Bioinformatics is a technology that manages and interprets the massive data generated by genomic research. It is a field where most researchers have the least expertise. To build the capacity of researchers in Tanzania, IITA, Inqaba Biotec, and CLC-Bio organized a two-day bioinformatics training in Dar es Salaam on 17-18 October at the hub.

The workshop aimed to give participants a better understanding, through theory and hands-on practice, on common sequence analysis techniques in basic and advanced DNA sequence analyses.

The training brought together 20 researchers not only from IITA but also different institutions in Tanzania including Ifakara Health Institute-Bagamoyo Research Centre, Muhimbili University of Health and Alliance Sciences (MUHAS), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Government Chemist Laboratory Agency, Tsetse and Trypanosamiasis Research Institute, Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), and Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI).

The training was conducted by Anne Arens, Field Application Scientist with CLC Bio, with technical support from Reinhard Eckloff Resseller, Mentor for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Also present were Oliver Preisig, Executive Director, Inqaba Biotec, South Africa, and Fumbuka Adriany, Inqaba Biotec Sales area Manager for Tanzania and IITA’s virologist James Legg who was also one of the organizers.  

At the end of the training, James Legg, on behalf of the participants and as the acting officer in charge of the hub, thanked Inqaba Biotec and CLC Bio team for offering such a useful training to Tanzanian scientists.

He noted that bioinformatics was an important field and that researchers lacked the capacity to handle the massive data generated by research.

Anne Arens commended the participants for their active participation during the workshop and encouraged them to do more tutorials to be familiar with the software.

Researchers and partners discuss value addition in cassava through cassava-based feeds

Participants in the workshop.

More than 50 experts on cassava, nutrition and livestock, the private sector—represented by producers and feed millers—and representatives from donor groups, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, and development partners, came together in IITA this week to discuss how cassava residues or by-products such as cassava peels can be used in industry and to add value to the industrial cassava value chain.

The meeting, held at IITA 28-30 October, aimed to come up with a roadmap for developing a cassava-based feed system for livestock, an action plan for Nigeria, and pilot projects that would serve as models in Africa.

The meeting was organized by IITA, GCP21, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the CGIAR Research Programs on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, Livestock and Fish, and Humidtropics, and the private livestock feed sector.

As part of Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Program, the cassava transformation plan seeks to create a new generation of cassava farmers, producers, and processors oriented towards commercial production to generate  cassava for specific value-added chains. The plan aims to turn the cassava sector in Nigeria into a major player in the local and international production and processing arena for flour, starch, sweeteners, ethanol and dried chips markets through private sector-led value-added chains.

Traditionally small farmers discard the peels that are left as waste near processing locations for feeding their animals (poultry, goats and pigs). Few attempts have been made to establish a nutritionally and economically sustainable cassava-based feed system using local products to replace imported products in the feed industry.

Enhanced production under the Cassava Transformation Plan will produce over 2 million tonnes of additional cassava by-products each year, offering a unique opportunity to support a cassava-based feed system at an industrial scale.

The use of cassava-based feeds in Nigeria will bring several benefits including cutting down on maize imports, most of which are used as feeds for livestock, according to the researchers.

“Africa imported maize worth US$4.63 billion in 2011 of which Nigeria’s feed industry alone accounted for 1.2 million tons worth about $350 million,” says Dr Iheanacho Okike, Country Representative for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based in Ibadan.

“If we use cassava peels for livestock feeds, for instance, we will be able to reduce the amount we spend on maize importation, and more importantly reduce the competition between man and livestock for maize,” he added.

Efforts to transform Nigeria’s agriculture have raised the production of cassava to more than 50 million tons per annum, with several factories now processing cassava to products such as flour, gari, glucose, and ethanol. This growing demand and processing of cassava is also churning out cassava residues including cassava peels to the environment.

Dr Peter Kulakow, IITA Cassava Breeder, said the “use of cassava peels in livestock
is a win-win situation for both agriculture and the environment. It is basically converting waste to wealth,” he added.

Dr Claude Fauquet, Director of GCP 21, said the use of cassava-based feeds would widen the opportunities for cassava farmers and help alleviate poverty.
Dr Claude Fauquet, Director of GCP 21, during the opening program.
According to him, Africa, being the lead producer, needs to take advantage of the crop, by creating/tapping into value addition.

Fauquet also said Nigeria produces 50% of the world’s cassava although poverty levels in the country remained high when compared with Latin America and Asia.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina praised IITA for its continuing work on cassava and for hosting the conference.

He said the government had concluded arrangements to establish additional ethanol and starch processing industries in three cities across the country to create more value addition for cassava.

Represented by Dr Martin Fregene, Senior Technical Advisor, the minister said on completion, the factories would be producing cassava residues which if converted to feeds would create additional jobs and incomes for the country.

According to him, the nation’s agricultural transformation plan aims to create about 3.5 million jobs through the establishment of agro-based industries by 2015.